We’re about a month into the 2023-24 season and still a few weeks away from head-to-head Big East action. Still, a handful of teams are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the conference. Let’s dive into some of the early action as the 11 teams in the Big East continue to get their legs underneath them.
Rankings shown throughout are from kenpom.com.
Analyzing Big East Non-Conference Action
The Cream of the Crop
No. 3 UConn (7-0)
The reigning national champions have picked up where they left off, winning the first seven games of their season. They own the nation’s longest active win streak with 13 in a row. They haven’t won a game by fewer than 10 points so far, including knocking off both Indiana and Texas at the Empire Classic. Seniors Cam Spencer (16.3 PPG) and Tristen Newton (15.6 PPG) have been impressive. So has seven-foot-two Donovan Clingan (15.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG). Danny Hurley’s Huskies face a huge test on Friday night as they visit Allen Fieldhouse to take on the Kansas Jayhawks before they face UNC at Madison Square Garden next week. UConn looks every part like a first seed so far and can continue solidifying their case in their next couple of matchups. They begin Big East play on December 20th at Seton Hall.
No. 5 Marquette (6-1)
The Marquette Golden Eagles gave Purdue all they could handle in the Maui Invitational final but fell short 78-75 despite a 22-point performance from Tyler Kolek (13.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.1 APG). The loss is the only blemish on their 6-1 record, and they picked up an impressive 73-59 win over Kansas in the same trip to Honolulu. More tests await the Golden Eagles before Big East play begins. Marquette plays on the road against Wisconsin on Saturday before Shaka Smart faces his former team, the Texas Longhorns, at home next week. Like UConn, Marquette looks to strengthen their resume for a top-seed in March, with Kam Jones (16.0 PPG) leading the team in scoring. Marquette’s Big East schedule gets underway on December 19th at Providence.
No. 13 Creighton (6-1)
The Creighton Blue Jays are reeling after a 21-point loss to the undefeated Colorado State (who are no slouch) on a neutral court. Colorado State will challenge reigning national runner-up SDSU for the Mountain West crown. Even still, 6-1 Creighton is not satisfied with quality losses and was able to right the ship Thursday at Oklahoma State. They visit rival Nebraska over the weekend. Senior Baylor Scheierman (18.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.4 APG) and the Blue Jays own a win against Iowa and are on track for a top-four seed. They can pick up an impressive win at home against Alabama in a couple of weeks. A second seed could be in their reach if they stack up enough wins in Big East play, which begins on December 20th versus Villanova.
No. 24 Villanova (6-2)
The Villanova Wildcats are 0-2 (Penn and St. Joe’s) against Philadelphia Big 5 schools this season. Strange, because Villanova flexed their muscles just last week at the Battle 4 Atlantis. They beat Texas Tech, UNC, and Memphis en route to a championship in the Bahamas, proving they are capable, though far from perfect. Seniors Eric Dixon (14.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG) and Justin Moore (15.8 PPG) are the only two Wildcats scoring double figures. Richmond transfer Tyler Burton (9.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG) has been a nice addition to a team that missed the NCAA Tournament last year in head coach Kyle Neptune’s first season. Villanova plays Big 5 (now 6) newcomer in Drexel on Saturday before they travel to Kansas State and welcome UCLA to the Finn to close out their non-conference schedule. Villanova has top-four seed potential, but they may not reach that if they continue to play down to opponents. The ‘Cats begin Big East play on December 20th at Creighton.
How do you enjoy the holidays if you're a coach in the Big East outside the top 4 teams?
8 of your 20 league games are against UConn, Marquette, Creighton, & Villanova.
"My advice to you is to start drinking heavily." – John Belushi as Bluto in Animal House, circa 1978
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 24, 2023
The rest of the Big East is an echelon below the top four. Putting a spin on Jon Rothstein’s take, five of the remaining seven teams will have plenty of chances to pick up quality wins and distance themselves from the NCAA Tournament bubble. Here’s a snapshot of how the remaining Big East squads have fared so far:
No. 40 Xavier is 4-3. The Musketeers just lost at home to Oakland (not great). They have a neutral site win against St. Mary’s and face No. 1 Houston on Friday.
No. 41 Providence is 6-1. In head coach Kim English’s first season, they had a nice win over Wisconsin and a loss to Kansas State.
No. 53 Butler is 6-2. Their two losses (Michigan St. and FAU) represent missed opportunities to pick up quality wins. Their best win so far has been against Boise St.
No. 63 Seton Hall is 5-2. Like Butler, their losses (USC and Iowa) have been squandered opportunities. It’s unclear which is their strongest win thus far, but Northeastern and Albany are in the running.
No. 64 St. John’s is 4-2. Rick Pitino’s squad has solid wins over Utah and defending NIT champ North Texas. Their losses to Michigan and Dayton are far from terrible. It’s a decent-looking resume so far.
No. 188 Georgetown is 5-2. Ed Cooley and the Hoyas have lost at home to 2-6 Holy Cross and at Rutgers. They have zero quality wins to speak of. Don’t be fooled by their non-conference record – this team will not have a winning conference record.
No. 196 DePaul is 1-5. They’ve faced a much tougher schedule than Georgetown and are as much of a cellar dweller. They have a loss at home to Purdue Fort Wayne, although they did manage to beat South Dakota.